INTERNET LAW - Hong Kong’s Regulation of Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Advertisement
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 IBLS Editorial Department
Monday, November 10, 2008


Hong Kong's legislation well regulates the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages. In May 2007, Hong Kong enacted the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance (UEMO), to regulate all forms of commercial electronic messages sent with or to the "Hong Kong link" (.hk).  UEMO is supplemented by the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Regulation (UEMR) enacted by Hong Kong in December 2007.  In addition to UEMO and UEMR, Hong Kong"s Telecommunications Authority approved a code of practice to regulate practical aspects of commercial electronic messages and serve as the users' guidelines.  Both Hong Kong's commercial advertisers and foreign companies advertising in Hong Kong should be aware of this legislation because it applies to advertisement sent from Hong Kong or received in Hong Kong, either by individuals or companies.    

Under UEMO, there are four types of commercial electronic messages: (1) pre-recorded voice/video messages sent to telephones; (2) e-mails; (3) faxes; and (4) text messages sent to mobile phones or fixed lines.  Also, in terms of content, a CEM is defined as the one that offers to supply, advertise, or promotes goods, services and facilities; or the one that advertise, promotes a supplier or prospective supplier of goods, services, and facilities. 

UEMO establishes specific rules for all forms of commercial electronic messages (CEMs). For instance, it requires the specific information senders must provide when transmitting CEMs; it describes the options users may use to unsubscribe from unsolicited CEMs; it launches the country's do-not-call registers; prohibits spam; and the use of CEMs for fraudulent activities.

Senders of CEMs from or to Hong Kong must include identifiable information such as sender's name, telephone number and address if the message is sent via telephone; if the message is sent by e-mail, in addition to this, senders must provide the sender's e-mail address; if the message is sent by fax or a pre-recorded telephone messages, the sender cannot conceal the display of the calling number.  Additionally, UEMO requires advertisers to offer un-subscription options to those recipients who do not want to receive further messages.  This process must be simple for the recipients, and the CEMs must stop within the following 10 business days from the request.  UEMO established the do-not-call registers.  Individuals may register their home, business, cell and fax numbers and this registration will operate 10 business days after registration. The Office of Telecommunications is the authority in charge of sanctioning those who violate the do-not-call registers.   

The Telecommunications Authority (TA) assures compliance of UEMO's rules.  Upon an individuals' complaint, the TA will issue an enforcement notice to the CEM sender that is in violation of UEMO's rules. The notice will also provide the remedies available to assure compliance.  Failure to comply with this enforcement notice is punishable by a fine up to HK$100,000 for the first conviction, and up to HK$500,000 for the second or subsequent conviction. A further fine of $1,000 a day will be imposed for continuing offenders. These enforcement notices may be appealed before the Appeal Board but it does not suspend payment of fines during the appeal process.

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